Bad news for First Amendment practitioners

High Court: Report only settled arguments

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear a case that would have solidified the news media's long-presumed right to report truthfully what politicians say--whether those politicians are lying or not. First Amendment attorneys across the country had urged the high court to take up the case, which stems from a Pennsylvania newspaper's accurate account of a city council meeting at which a councilman called his colleagues "liars," "queers," and "child molesters." Today's Los Angeles Times carries a good article on the decision and its (disastrous, we think) implications:

In their appeal to the high court, lawyers for the paper said news organizations should be allowed to report what public figures say, regardless of whether it is true or false.

Otherwise, they said, for example, the press could not have reported last year on the charges lodged against Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth because Kerry's supporters said their charges were false.

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